I went to the community college in Ashland for my first two years, finding a job to support myself and pay for my schooling. This meant that often I had night classes, so I could work during the day. My principle transport was a well-worn Ducati Monza 250, (See previous post “Kind of a Drag” for some of its uses.) In those innocent, late 1960’s days, in such a small town, the few of us who rode motorcycles parked them on the lawn in front of the college building and left our excess books and jackets and helmets on the seat. Theft just wasn’t a consideration (perhaps because of those who would steal in a small town, books weren’t high on the list of desirables.) Bruce had a Ducati Mach 1 250, a race-replica bike I lusted after, but like many of us in those teen years, his maintenance of the machine was somewhat less than perfect. It had an oily film around the open bell-mouth carb, sans air filter, and wasn’t always easy to start with the awkward left side under-the-footpeg kick starter necessary to accommodate the rearset pegs. One late fall night as we left class, he put his books down and began the ritual of tickling the carb and swinging the short-throw lever to bring the single to life, as I did the same on mine. I looked over at him just as a tongue of flame shot out of the bell-mouth, setting fire to the oily residue. Bruce kept kicking away, oblivious to the fire developing under his leg . I yelled at him, but he was absorbed in his task, until the heat coming through his jeans finally got his attention. He leaped off the bike and began jumping around, screaming (in hindsight, he probably thought, with good reason, that his leg was on fire as well as his bike). I ran into the building and grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall. I pointed it at the burning machine and pulled the trigger, only to get a dribble of white liquid falling on the ground right in front of my shoes. Note to self: check fire extinguishers frequently. I ran back in and pulled the fire alarm for the building, which brought quick results, if probably overkill. By then however the poor Mach 1, object of my desire, was but a shell with melted bits of seat and tires dripping on the ground. I helped him push it through town the next day, back to his home, where he began the slow process of bringing it back to life. It eventually Phoenixed as a blue metalflaked café racer….but still oily and hard to start.

About johngrice

Retired small town lawyer, lifelong motorcyclist, traveler and old guy sitting around thinking.
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